On Production Committees and TV Anime

The following is an excerpt from a long, in-depth essay on the working conditions for animators in Japan and various cultural factors contributing to the problem. This particular section focuses on production committees – how they came about and why they put unions at a disadvantage in labor negotiations. Shoutout to longtime reader primadog for bringing the essay to my attention.

Other sections of this essay are interesting for a variety of reasons, though it’s by no means an easy read. Some neat information comes from the many sources it cites, such as this article with an animator’s perspective on the cel->digital transition or this one on animator wage scales. A tidbit from the latter source that comes up in the essay as an example of how the industry hasn’t always adjusted well to the digital transition – coloring is twice as efficient with digital equipment as it is with analog cels, but the people doing that job still get paid by the amount of frames done, so their wages have doubled more or less by accident.

Original Article: http://www.godo-shuppan.co.jp/img/kokai/kaisetsu_kokai.pdf

[Note: For context, the previous section mentioned a planned 1991 Ginza demonstration by anime workers.]

p599: “Production committees” which serve to spread out risk

In the same year 1991, perhaps coincidentally, the first TV anime using the production committee format, Musekinin Kanchou Tylor, was put into production, then broadcast in the next year.

A production committee is a setup which has existed in the world of film since the latter half of the 1970s, wherein several investors form a “committee” and split the work’s profits according to their initial investments.

But it’s a different story when it comes to TV anime. With their high ratings, their commercials could reach many viewers, and sponsors’ products sold well as a result. This was the foundation of the public TV broadcast model, but Tyler overturned this model. It’s a revolutionary concept; if the program itself is sold as a product (that is, if you sell video cassettes) there’s no problem so long as the program is a hit with the target demographic.

When Urusei Yatsura (1981-1985), which was broadcast as a TV anime, was later released on laser disk, many “anime maniac” men purchased it. Additionally, the success of the ambitious drama, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, in a weekly laser disk release schedule was at least in part thanks to the purchases of “maniac” men. But there were other reasons; TV anime’s ratings dropped along with the collapse of the economic bubble, and that “the sales of the OVA market were in decline, so the video makers, looking for a solution, came to the TV networks” was big as well. (source: http://animestyle.jp/2013/02/18/3987/ )

The first mega-hit to arise out of the production committee framework was Shinseiki Evangelion (1995-1996). Broadcast on TV Tokyo, what started as a program with a small subset of fans quickly ballooned into a massive success, but TV Tokyo’s name was not in its production committee. There are many cases of TV anime made via production committee where the broadcast stations are not investors, in other words, where they are not copyright holders. The TV stations’ roles ended once they sold the airtime, but depending on your perspective, even if the increase in production costs carries over to the stations, they’re “just the broadcaster”, and perhaps (as a result) you have this framework which allows them to avoid the hassles of copyright law.

This committee setup which was invented to spread out the risk of production,
by also spreading out the copyright holders, also perhaps spreads out the separate risk of pushback from those working on-site in production.

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